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Women in Leadership in Higher Education

This document is a dissertation proposal for a project titled “Women in Leadership in Higher Education”. The study will analyze the roles, initial career paths, organizational and leadership techniques as well as other factors, which will enable women to progress into leadership positions in the institutions of higher learning. The paper will deeply look into the experiences of women presidents in colleges and universities, including the decisions they have made on their way up the career paths and the perceptions they have regarding women leadership in top college and university positions.

It will also explore the ways in which women leaders prepare for their positions as presidents, as well as the challenges they experience in the course of their work such as glass ceilings. In carrying out this study, various methods will be used to source for information including in-depth personal interviews, emails, telephone calls and if need be, questionnaires. If necessary, questionnaires will be formulated and presented to women who are in leadership positions in universities and top colleges. For those who prefer interviews, these will be organized in the work location or via telephone calls. Emails may also be used if the respondent finds it convenient. The design of this study will be the narrative qualitative methodology approach.


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Research Objectives

This research aims at exploring perceptions, preparations as well as challenges, which women presidents in higher institutions of learning have towards their role in the highly demanding positions. It is aimed at finding a more personal account of the experiences of these women through personal interviews that will enable them to give a narrative account of their career paths. A crucial study objective is to discover any career glass ceilings, which have challenged them on their way up, and how they dealt with it if it is in the past, or how they are handling it if it is in the present. In order to realize its objectives, this study will be formulated in a way that several key questions will be answered.   

What are the Perceptions of Female Presidents of Colleges or Universities in Their Career Paths and Future Professional Goals?

This question will seek to obtain a personal narrative of the respondent’s perceptions at various stages during their rise into the present positions, as well as their perceptions regarding the future of their professions. It will focus on such qualities as the women’s altitudes towards leadership, special preparations of callings towards such positions, specific objectives of drive that led them to push for these positions, inspirations that they had among other factors. It may also record instances of perceived failure during the rise, and how they responded to these instances.

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What are The Perceptions of Female Presidents of Colleges or Universities on The Role of President and How Well Their Career Paths Prepared Them For The Presidency?

This section will look into the women’s personal perceptions towards their work positions. It will focus on specific roles or duties that these women have, including a separation of functions into those requiring discipline and dedication versus those requiring visionary and leadership qualities. It will also explore the role that their career paths have played in shaping them for these positions. Such experiences will include past positions held in similar environment, courses taken in educational facilities, on-hand experience in various work areas among other contributory experiences. It will also focus on important courses that they failed to take and the effects of these on their performance in the present role.

 What are The Perceptions of Female Presidents of Colleges or Universities on the Glass Ceiling In Higher Education?

This question will seek to expose the various hindrances that may exist in the higher education sector to persons aspiring to rise into better positions or better service experiences. These hindrances or hidden restrictions may affect the women leaders in their positions personally or other stakeholders such as academic professionals, administrative personnel and the students in their different domains.

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Research Design

This chapter will focus on the way meaningful data will be collected, organized and analyzed in order to obtain the desired objectives as laid out in the previous section. It will break down the research process into the research methodology, data analysis and the research findings. The primary data collection tool in the methodology will be the narrative qualitative approach. However, in cases where extremely necessary other procedures might be used, such as the questionnaire and e-mails. The following section will describe the narrative qualitative approach.

Narrative Qualitative Approach

This is a data collection method having narration as the basic tool (Bal, 1985). On one side, the respondent or interviewee answers the questions put to them through a personal experience narration, usually with few or no boundaries as to the choice of information they wish to give so long as it is true and relevant to the topic. On the other hand, the interviewer may narrate the storyline before and after asking the questions to the respondents. Therefore, in a way, narrative techniques may involve both interviewer and interviewee.

Qualitative approach here refers to the emphasis given to the relevance of the information in the context of social cultural aspects of the modern society as opposed to the number of respondents chosen or interviewed. It has more to do with the perceptions, altitude and expectations of the interviewee than with the number of persons to interview.

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Reason for the Choice of Narrative Qualitative Approach

This method was chosen as the most appropriate for this study due to a number of reasons. As indicated above, the narrative qualitative approach is a bit flexible to respondents, who are busy, like these women presidents, hence being adopted. Generally, the most fundamental ones are stated below.

Limiting Population Size

The respondents of this research are women presidents of universities and top colleges. The number of such institutions in the present day society is few and far between. Further, the number of women heading such institutions is far less than that of men. It may be expected that vast geographical areas, the size of a whole state or even some countries, may contain only a dozen of such institutions. In the developing countries these kinds of institutions headed by women are far much less and scattered as compared to the developed countries. This is due to the fact that these societies have drastically failed to accept women as national leaders. Therefore, owing to the similarities in vetting procedures into positions of college or university presidency, it might be representative to an agreeable range to interview only a limiting number of people occupying such positions.

Time and Accessibility of Interviewees

Apart from the fact that women college and university presidents are very few, they are also very busy. This is due to the many responsibilities bestowed to these leaders, such as supervision roles, management roles, among other critical areas. Further, most of these women leaders have families to take care of after the busy schedules in the office, thus complicating the matter. It is therefore relatively difficult to get consent of interview from such people. In addition, the nature of this study may not allow a lengthy period in which to obtain all the relevant data. It has been noted that some of the prospective interviewees are not residents in a particular state and it may take a long time to get an interview.

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Nature of the Profession and Role

The study will give major emphasis on women empowerment. It is already documented that there is a far smaller percentage of women in various leadership positions than their overall percentage in the population. For this reason a quantitative research of women leaders in any discipline and in higher education specifically would be trivial. However, it is vital to explore the internal qualities, which they possess as well as professional qualifications making them progress and occupy positions traditionally held by men. Thus, the study is properly designed to examine how the women have risen.

Qualitative Approach Is Insightful

The primary data tool collection method is qualitative because it gives an insightful dimension to the study. The first reason for this choice is because the points of interest have to do with the internal perceptions, organization, preferences and inspiration. This is clearly evident from the research objective stated above. It can be noted that these parameters cannot be measured or their nature directed by such other data collection tools as questionnaires and e-mails, as they can be expounded through a narrative insight. Further, narration reveals other aspects of cultural, economic and social orientations of the narrator that cannot be revealed in any other data collection method (Connie, 2000).

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The narrative approach will be best positioned to answer the research questions outlined above. The data collection methods chosen are:

  • In-depth personal interview (narrative style)
  • Curriculum Vitae and resume examination
  • E-mails
  • Telephone conversation

The personal interview will be used to answer questions regarding perceptions, expectations and challenges experienced in the career path. The Curriculum Vitae will be appropriate in answering questions to do with professional qualifications attained and their relevance to the attainment of the president’s position. Email and telephone calls will be used mainly as supplementary tools in the preparation for the interview as well as for collection of minor data before and after the interviews.

Research Setting and Population

This research selected four respondents for the interview. The four women presidents chosen are indicated on the table below.

Note: This requires researchers’ input. The researcher will suggest four persons basing on convenience of approach, country of origin, as well as institution headed by the respondent.

The four were selected basing on their availability and consent to be interviewed for this research, as well as the diversity of their career paths during their progress to occupy their current respective positions. The basic information collected in order to choose these respondents included:

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It is used to compare the relative rate at which different women rose within ranks with a view to study the contributing factors.

Academic Qualifications

These include degree awards and other achievements. It is used to determine the role academic achievements contributed to their overall positions

Career History

This includes other past jobs and assignments. It is used to evaluate the role of experience in career growth for the respondents.

Personality and Goals Description

This information obtained from resumes and other statements will be useful in analyzing the different women’s future plans and aspirations.

The respondents will be contacted using various methods depending on the necessity. The initial request for consent will be done through e-mail. The reason for this choice is because most senior staffs in institutions have public e-mail addresses. Further, e-mail correspondence will give time and convenience for the respondent before responding to the research’s request. It is also a good tool for initial acquaintance. Depending on the respondent’s direction, other tools such as follow up telephone calls and official letters of consent might be used.

The initial contact information will include identification of the researcher and the affiliated institution, the title of the research for which the study is being conducted, the importance of the research and why the particular respondent has been chosen as a candidate for the interview. That is the importance of the respondent as a contributor to the research. The expectations for the interview process are that the respondents will be willing to give an interview in their offices within between one month and two months of receiving the participating request.

Data Collection and Analysis

This chapter will lay down the actual data collection procedures. The primary data collection tool will be the interview. In addition, other supplementary methods will be explored afterwards.

Personal Interview Procedure

The interviews, expected to be held in the respondents’ offices, are supposed to last for between one hour and two hours. The reason for this duration is to obtain a reasonable compromise between the expected very busy schedule of the women presidents requiring very short time of contact and the intricate nature of the narrative approach requiring enough time to build into the interview. The narrative approach is more like a life history of the respondent, with the interviewer only briefly featuring to direct the interview within the required objectives. The amount of data to be collected is huge and diverse and the interviewer might find a necessity to follow storylines that arise in course of the conversation so long as they have a meaningful bearing to the overall research objective (Bell, 2002).

The information will be gathered through recorders, notebooks and scribbling pads. The researcher will seek consent of the interviewee in bringing a video or tape recorder into the meeting. It is expected that the interviewee will have no objection to scribbling pads. The interviewer will already have a question outline with the four major research questions outlined. Subdivisions will be constructed within the main questions in order to develop the interview process as well as systematically source for meaningful data. The interviewer will be keen to direct the respondent’s storyline to avoid trivial conversation while at the same time taking caution not to appear to interrupt or undermine the respondent’s responses.

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To supplement the data collected during the interviews, the interviewer will source for other documents such as honorary awards, testimonials, publications such as books and term papers, recorded talks and presentations among other works by the respondents. This will assist in building up an all-rounded perspective of the respondents’ careers. The data will be analyzed through various different methods including direct observation of outstanding concepts, picking themes through such procedures as word analysis, linguistic features analysis such as metaphors, connectors and many more, compare and contrast, social science queries and so on (Spradley, 1999). Coding may also be done on different levels such as simple color coding of similar concepts or the more complex use of social software to analyze concepts. Validation of data will be done on different platforms based on applicability. Historical data will be verified from resume and C.Vs, while personal and perception data will not be subjected to further treatment due to its personal nature.

Negotiating Access and the Researcher’s Role

This section will outline steps followed by the researcher to obtain the consent of the interviewee, as well as the necessary preparations undertaken in terms of information privacy, data protection, research information revelation, as well as the declaration of position assumed by both parties during interview. Proper treatment will be given to further collection tools such as e-mails and telephone calls.

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The researcher is expected to interact closely with the respondent in the course of the interview establishing a rapport that will aid in information flow. It is also expected that researcher will avoid bias or pursue un-consented questions or information categories. It will also be expected that the researcher will strive to give non-biased questions or suggestions.

Methodological Assumptions and Limitations

This section will lay down the basic assumptions made before, during and after the interview. Such assumptions might include:

  • The assumption that the respondent will give only true information during the interview
  • The chosen respondents will represent fairly the general population of similar respondents.
  • The interview process is free from bias that can arise voluntarily or involuntarily
  • The definitions of concepts during the interview including words such as courageous, insightful, bold, fearful, visionary among other key words will not assume a localized perspective, but will retain their universal weight within agreeable levels (Bal, 1985).

Trustworthiness, Ethical Considerations and Procedures

This section will comment the truth aspect of the collected data. It will draw from the assumptions made above as well as state areas, which may not be entirely reliable and the reasons why. It will also list the various ethical procedures adopted such as data privacy procedures, fair usage and information publication, respondent information regarding personal data and similar issues (Bell, 2002).

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This section will briefly summarize the data collection procedures taken and the output of the whole research. It might also highlight other methods used and their effectiveness. The author’s input may also be written here.



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